By now his foot is in the rescue boat; his Europe starts here. Part-lifted, part-pulling himself out of the overcrowded inflatable. Fine features, full lips, corkscrew hair. Eyes closed perhaps out of modesty – no self-respecting young man should be seen succumbing to the embrace of the broad-shouldered Spanish coastguard. No worries, though. Only the same as hand-on-head whenever a perp gets into a police car.
Still sitting in the dinghy that’s just far enough off the Libyan coast for a credible distress call, among the many, far too many tightly packed in, two men next to each other, one grinning, the other grimacing as they watch the younger man going aboard the Spanish vessel. There are hundreds more migrants to be carried over before their turn comes.
Sitting, squatting, hardly anything to eat, doing nothing except trying not to get sick. For the ones that didn’t get away, every wasted day in Libya’s internment camps, surely seems interminable.
Would-be escapees hidden in warehouses and farm buildings. Valuable human cargo, although from the smugglers’ handling, you wouldn’t think they’re worth more than 10 cents.
Perhaps a quarter of a million trying to get in; or maybe as many as 800,000 (least conservative estimates from the most conservative sources). Either a Carthaginian army set to invade Rome; or the population of a small city, lying listless in the sun like elephants with their tusks removed.
Blocks of seats in the civic sports centre painted in different shades, giving the fleeting impression of a stadium filled with spectators sporting opposing team colours. But this is China’s New Ordos, rich in resources including rare earth metals, the ‘ghost city’ built for a million Mongols to live in but only a hundred thousand turned up.